Tomorrow & Tomorrow Hype Week:
Mother, Maiden, Crone, Rockstar
Supernatural Elements in the Scottish Play
Some of you may know that in addition to my writing career, I’m also a full-time student. As of next year, I’ll have my bachelor’s in History and English Literature. Going back to school has been such a fun and fulfilling experience, and I was never more excited than when I found out that I’d be taking a Shakespeare elective at the exact same time as Tomorrow and Tomorrow’s book release! A literal class on Shakespeare as my Shakespeare adaptation is released into the world? A case of serendipity that the Bard himself would have applauded.
As it happens, I’ll be submitting my final paper for that class the same week that Tomorrow and Tomorrow officially releases (October 17). And guess what that final project is about? You guessed it: Macbeth. More specifically, supernatural elements in Macbeth. I’ve really enjoyed researching this topic and of course I fully leaned into my and Lauren’s experiences writing our book to inform my paper.
It probably won’t surprise anyone that Shakespeare’s witches are among my favorite of the many supernatural elements in Willy Shakes’ work. Now, in Tomorrow and Tomorrow, we gender-flipped them and made them what Lauren calls “a dangerously handsome trio of hot boy-witches” (because warlock just doesn’t have that same vibe, you know?). But in Shakespeare’s world, witches were more often than not, female. And they were much more than just a plot device or harbingers of doom (or fortune, depending on how you look at it). In Shakespeare’s time, thanks to the influence of his patron King James I/VI, who was more than a little obsessed with witchcraft (and even wrote his own book on the subject, Daemonologie), as well as the Puritans–who, as they fled religious persecution in England, took up in Europe and the Americas and promptly started blaming wayward women for their failing crops and rumbling bellies–witches were bad, bad, bad.
Blaming women for the world’s ills is a tale as old as time itself (and a common refrain in the bible that said King James had to rewrite because of course he did). The Greek goddess Hecate, who has been around since ancient times, is the goddess of magic, necromancy, ghosts, the moon, and yes, witchcraft (is it any wonder Shakespeare calls her by name in Macbeth?). Once revered, by the time of Shakespeare Hecate had come to be feared, and was often depicted in art as a withered, ugly old spinster; a hag, a trickster. The role of a malevolent old woman–basically every female Disney villain ever– was foisted upon her and never left. And thus, this image became synonymous with that of the Crone. In truth, the Crone is simply a wise old woman, well-taught in the pagan ways. In medieval times, women who Knew Things were hated and feared, so naturally, the Crone was painted as evil. Of course, the Crone had company: the Mother, a middle-aged, nurturing spirit, and the Maiden, a beautiful, virginal young woman in her prime. Usually the three were portrayed as sisters, and while their level of malevolence varied, they were never to be trusted. Somewhere along the way, some creative soul threw a cauldron in the mix, and the trio of witches became one of the most enduring and infamous images of Halloween (and pretty much the basis of the movie Hocus Pocus).
Witches are largely beloved–now. We’ve come a long way from the Inquisition and Salem, and even from Macbeth. But the stain endures. Lauren and I set out to turn the trope on its head, giving the power and substance to our all-girl rock band, dead set on stardom. As for the trickster witches and their soothsaying doom? The air of suspicion and mockery that surrounds a group who dares to be “weird”? Well, let ‘em be dudes. Why not?
Witches aren’t the only supernatural elements in Macbeth, of course: the whole play is just teeming with them. It’s basically one giant, bloody fever dream. And the blood is more than just a delusion: it’s a haunting all its own. Then there’s the prophecies and visions. Wait ‘till you see Larry M standing on that rock, scrubbing at his hands. And then there’s the ghosts.
Glamis Castle, where Macbeth is set, is one of the most haunted castles in Scotland, according to lore. And that’s not a recent thing made up by tour guides, either. The castle has long-been haunted, with tales of terrifying spirits surrounding its grounds since centuries before Shakespeare was even born. It’s likely why he chose Glamis as the setting, aside from historical accuracy (which was never his strong suit, let’s be honest) and set out to write Banquo, one of the most famous ghosts in English literature. Our girls in The Scottish Play take a trip-of-a-lifetime to Glamis to play a historic rock show, and things go…well, awry. In more ways than one. And some of that is down to one very scary ghost. And maybe a few flies.
Want more? You’ll just have to read the book.